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Theory U: Four Levels of Responding to Change

There are four levels of responding to change, according to "Theory U", which we learned about in our Youth Minstry Coaching Program.

Theory U is a theory developed by Otto Scharmer that addresses issues of innovation and how leadership responds to change.

The different levels are:

  • Reacting
  • Redesigning
  • Reframing
  • Regenerating

A lof the discussions regarding Theory U sound a little New Agey, which I'm not particularly fond of, but the theory itself also has practical leadership values. Here's some copy from the website:

Fundamental problems, as Einstein once noted, cannot be solved at the same level of thought that created them. Learning to pay attention to our attention and to illuminate the blind spot, according to Scharmer, is the key leverage point to bring forth the profound systemic changes in business, society and in science so needed now.

And here's what the process actually looks like:

Theory U: Four Levels of Responding to Change

The basic premise of the theory is that we need to work through the different levels of response to effect the most change.

The point is that you learn to move through the U, changing how you think about problems and challenges in the future.

As change is introduced to a system, we may move through all four levels, but what's important for leaders is to move towards the fourth level as quickly as possible.

How does your organization respond to change?